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Optimizing Coordinated Entry With Effective HMIS Queue Management

Coordinated entry (CE) requires a great deal of collaboration.

Homeless response systems are complex, and many clients receive care at multiple touchpoints throughout the community. Without a well-defined CE workflow and effective strategies for queue management, it can be difficult to prioritize care and swiftly distribute resources to people who need it most. When clients have to work with provider after provider to get the care they need, it doesn’t just place a tremendous burden on them — it can erode trust in the entire system, making it less likely that they’ll pursue help even if resources are available.  

Integrating your CE workflow and referral process into your HMIS can help you understand what’s working, fix what isn’t, and stay on top of your community queue so you can quickly match clients with much-needed services. It’s also an awesome way to ensure that your community is taking an equitable approach in its response to homelessness (you can find HUD resources on CE as a tool for equity here!).    

For many Continuums of Care (CoC), CE is currently being supported by basic tools like spreadsheets, which are used to manually keep track of assessments, navigation support, and referral statuses for each client.

At Bitfocus, we believe there’s a better way. By leveraging the power of technology, providers can cut down on tedious tasks and redirect that energy toward locating clients and supporting them on their journey to housing.

Let’s take a closer look at how optimizing queues within your HMIS can empower your community in its mission to end homelessness.

The Role of HMIS in Streamlining Coordinated Entry

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) 2023 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report, over 650,000 people in the US don't have permanent shelters. This marks the highest number of documented unhoused individuals since the first report in 2007 and represents a 12 percent increase from 2022.

Now more than ever, coordination and clear communication are needed in homeless response efforts. 

To effectively manage and evaluate your homeless response, you need to gather and analyze participants' data as they navigate through the care system. By examining how the system and participants interact, a CoC can judge how well the pathways it has created are working for clients. This is where an HMIS plays a vital role.

An HMIS (like Clarity Human Services) is a platform that logs, organizes, and analyzes detailed client-level data, helping providers support their clients on the road to housing and giving communities the information needed to enhance systems of care.

When your coordinated entry process is integrated within your HMIS, comprehensive data is made available to help locate clients, support their needs, and house them faster. 

When an individual accesses services within the homeless service system, they have a profile created in the HMIS containing information to create data points that reflect the demographics, needs, and experiences of persons being served in your homeless response system. Client profiles can include demographic information such as gender, age, ethnic and racial background, disabilities, and household composition. An HMIS can also keep track of the types of services clients access, as well as entry and exit dates for each program stay. 

By leveraging data gathered through an HMIS, communities gain a better understanding of local needs and dynamics within distinct subgroups of the homeless population. This empowers them to gauge the effectiveness of their strategies in both preventing and alleviating homelessness — and implement new, more efficient approaches when needed.

Community Queue - Watlist

Assessing and Optimizing Queue Management

With an increasing number of people in need, queues can become overwhelming, stretching your resources thin and even exhausting them completely.

Dynamic prioritization helps your community align the queue size with your available housing and shelter resources. This way, clients know right from the start what kind of assistance they can count on, fostering a sense of transparency and building trust.

Using Clarity’s data analysis tool, you can assess how well your intended workflows are being followed and identify training needs and roadblocks to successful service provisioning (more on Clarity later!). 

Even if you don’t use Clarity, there are several strategies you can implement to improve queue management:

  • Establish goals and intentions for queue management, whether it’s cost savings, time savings, or greater efficiency in the distribution of resources.
  • Leverage automation to facilitate the transition of clients on and off the queue and improve accuracy.
  • Document referral outcomes, as well as reasons for denial, to reduce returns to the queue and ensure that people are not being denied for the wrong reasons.
  • Automate other CE components where possible, including referral communications, prioritization, and case conferencing to allow managers to spend more time coordinating resources and less time managing the queue.

Client-Level AssessmentsPost-Assessment Eligibility Results

Elevating Coordinated Entry with Clarity

Clarity offers a range of coordinated entry workflow choices that make sure users can capture all the information needed to deliver the appropriate services to clients. 

Equipped with a variety of ready-to-use CE dashboards, Clarity gives providers a comprehensive overview of CE and the means to examine different touchpoints, outcomes, and timelines within the CE process. The tools required for coordinated entry management are fully integrated within Clarity’s system interface and workflows, making it possible to automate your queue management, saving precious time and connecting clients with the right resources faster.  

To further reduce the administrative burden on staff, Clarity automatically records CE referral events within a client’s record. This improves overall data quality and ensures event outcomes are being recorded. 

Coordinated Entry Events and Effective Queue Management

At their best, coordinated entry programs go above and beyond the functions of a network of providers; they act as a fully integrated crisis response system, enabling a CoC to provide individuals with access to housing and social services according to their level of need.

For CE to be successful, you need to work with a queue management system to analyze and manage the flow of clients. When your clients are vulnerable people who need access to basic resources like food, shelter, and medical services, improving CE and queue management can have a life-saving impact — so it’s crucial to carefully calibrate each phase.

A CE program consists of four steps: access, assessment, prioritization, and referral.


Access is all about how people get into the system and the steps they take to get the help they need. It can happen in different ways, but the priority is making sure everyone who needs it can easily get the assistance they're looking for.

It's essential to have a clearly defined and mutually agreed upon intake process and structure in place. This involves establishing a coordinated approach and access points, which can be centralized, decentralized, or a combination of both. 

Whatever method you choose, it's crucial that outreach and access points cover the entire community, both geographically and in terms of providing access to various levels of housing and support needs. This includes diversion, prevention, and ensuring safety for individuals fleeing domestic violence.


The second step in a CE program involves collecting and recording information from individuals or families when they access the coordinated entry network. It’s particularly important to make sure you use the same assessment process at every access point. By gathering all the necessary information, you can make a more informed decision about who needs help first.

Key elements of a coordinated entry assessment include:

  • Using standardized criteria to ensure consistent decision-making between access points and among staff.
  • Establishing clear procedures for cases where a participant chooses not to answer specific assessment questions.
  • Providing annual training to staff, which builds upon initial training to maintain the CoC's assessment protocols.


Prioritization is the act of analyzing the information provided by an individual at the assessment stage and identifying their needs relative to others who have also been assessed for services. This way, you can arrange to deliver services to those who are most in need.

When it comes to deciding who gets help first through coordinated entry, here are some criteria you should keep in mind:

  • Medical or behavioral health challenges requiring support to maintain permanent housing;
  • Relying on emergency services to meet basic needs;
  • The degree to which minors are unsheltered within the community;
  • Underlying medical conditions that render individuals more vulnerable to illness or death; and,
  • Vulnerability to being victimized (e.g. trafficking)


Referrals for housing or services are given based on the needs of individuals with the highest priority. According to HUD guidelines, barriers to referral, such as income, historical information, disability, or an existing criminal record, should be eliminated when making referrals. 

For your referral process to be successful, it's vital to map out services that can help those experiencing homelessness. Documented and approved policies make sure people get matched with the right housing and support services, filling vacancies based on community priorities. Keeping everyone updated on housing availability and new resources ensures services are distributed efficiently and equitably.


Leveraging Clarity HMIS for Advanced Queue Management

Clarity's coordinated entry functionality was crafted with a focus on flexibility, efficiency, and user-friendliness, which can be tailored to meet your community’s needs as well as federal CE data collection standards. This sets it apart from other HMISes and provides you with a more streamlined user experience.

On top of that, Clarity has a variety of CE functionalities to support efficient queue management and referral processes. 

Some of Clarity’s key features for queue management include:

  • Referral Notifications: Referrals are sent via email and through the Clarity inbox to notify relevant staff of key referral actions. 
  • Pending and Pending-In-Process Notifications: These notifications inform specific staff if referrals assigned to their agency are pending or pending-in-process for more than the specified time or frequency. These notifications help hold providers accountable and ensure data entry happens in a timely manner. 
  • Community Referral Threshold: This feature sets a threshold in which a referral will expire if its status remains as “Pending.” It helps make sure that clients are returned to the community queue and can take advantage of new resources, rather than being stuck in limbo due to their referral sitting endlessly with a provider agency. 
  • Clarity Report Library: The report library in Clarity Human Services includes numerous pre-built reports to help with CE referrals monitoring and more. Authorized users can also build custom reports based on their CE system data and save them for future use. 

With the help of Clarity HMIS, you can streamline case management, outreach and engagement, and coordinated entry system activities, enabling you to get more value from data and help people get housed faster.

The following are just some of the benefits of integrating Clarity HMIS into your community outreach efforts:

  • Leveraging valuable insights from case conferencing. Make the most of valuable data gleaned during case conferencing by using Clarity to generate a robust case conferencing report, providing more up-to-date information and eliminating the need to manually maintain spreadsheets to prepare for weekly case conferencing meetings.
  • Triaging client referrals across programs, agencies, and systems of care. Clarity community queues are highly customizable waitlists that can be adapted to various approaches to CE, generating a list of clients who meet prioritization or eligibility criteria for specific programs, reducing the amount of back-and-forth between CoCs and providers, and ultimately letting the system do the work for you. 
  • Tracking the status of each referral and outcome. By pairing queue management with Clarity INVENTORY, you can create a true bed management system featuring real-time shelter availability and occupancy information, letting you know exactly when a bed has been freed up so you can turn it over to someone in need. 

Clarity in Action: Reducing Denials via Data Analysis

Bitfocus has worked with many communities that employed a manual coordinated entry process consisting of a series of spreadsheets. When outreach workers would get a call or email from a provider regarding available resources, they would then have to sort through individual records to determine eligibility and prioritization criteria. Once these communities switched to using Clarity Human Services to manage their coordinated entry system, they were able to conduct HMIS and coordinated entry in the same system — including automating much to do with tracking eligibility, referrals, and outcomes. 

In one large, urban community, tracking referral outcomes revealed instances where housing programs had denied clients based on perceived eligibility criteria. This prompted a comprehensive review of all funder-required eligibility criteria and the introduction of a case conferencing process. As a result, the denial rate for referrals decreased significantly, leading to more clients receiving housing. This detailed analysis wouldn’t have been possible without the data extracted from Clarity. 

With Clarity, if a referral is denied, the user is required to select a reason for denial before they are able to save the form. This acts as a safeguard against unjust denials, built into Clarity’s referral functionality.

Strengthen Your Coordinated Entry with Clarity HMIS

Addressing homelessness and maximizing the impact of your homeless response system requires the coordination of multiple stakeholders and resources. When integrated with HMIS, coordinated entry can streamline this process by centralizing access to services, enhancing collaboration among service providers across the community, and expediting the matching of clients with the essential services they require. 

This is where Clarity can be a game-changer, helping clients get the services they need while letting you dig into the data to really understand how people move through the system. Clarity sets you up with the tools to step up your outreach game, engage more effectively, and make a bigger impact.

At Bitfocus, our mission is to provide you with the tools and technology you need to provide stellar care. If you’d like to learn more about how Clarity HMIS can help your community, reach out to us today and we’ll schedule a time to chat.

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